Cumin-Spiced Lentils & Rice

This dish of cumin-spiced lentils & rice couldn’t be easier or quicker to make! It’s a one-skillet meal that’s flavorful, nutritious, and plant-based.

A round, white plate is covered with cumin-spiced lentils & rice, a serving fork, and a drizzle of pale-colored tahini sauce.

This recipe showcases one of my all-time favorite food pairings: lentils and rice.

While I was doing the SNAP challenge for grad school, a reader shared one of her favorite, inexpensive meals with me. It was a stir fry of rice and lentils with peanut butter sauce. It sounded simple and delicious, and it became the inspiration for this dish.

The suggestion had a domino affect. Skillet-warmed rice and lentil dinners have become a staple in my home. And this cumin-spiced lentils & rice dish is one of my favorite ways to cook this nutrient-dense combo.

A quick, easy Power Plate

This cumin-spiced lentils & rice dish is a variation on the bean, grain, and green meal template. Here, lentils are the bean.

Longtime readers of the blog know that I’m big on macronutrient balance within meals. In fact, I wrote a whole cookbook with the intention of sharing recipes that show a balance of protein, healthful fat, and complex carbs.

I use this principle of balance—not a specific ratio, just the intention of representing each macronutrient on my plate—to plan a lot of my meals. As many as possible.

And the cumin-spiced lentils & rice are a great example. Protein? Lentils (the greens add a little, too). Complex carbs? Lentils and rice. Healthful fat? Tahini and olive oil.

A small serving plate is covered with greens, whole grains, and legumes.

Cumin-spiced lentils & rice ingredients

This is recipe isn’t mujaddara, since it doesn’t come close to having that dish’s deeply caramelized onions or socarrat (the delightfully crispy rice at the bottom of the pan). But mujaddara is a very loose source of inspiration for the meal. I don’t caramelize the onions that go into the recipe, but I do brown them a bit.

Otherwise, I add plenty of cumin, as the recipe title suggests. And I like to top the cumin-spiced lentils & rice with a bright, tart dressing. Here’s a roundup of the main ingredients you’ll need:

Lentils

You can use brown, green, black, or pardina lentils in the recipe. I don’t recommend red lentils, which are a little too mushy to keep their shape in s a skillet meal like this one.

The lentils are cooked ahead of time, so you can prepare them at any point before whipping together the recipe. Canned lentils work nicely in the dish, too—I’m a big fan of those when I’m in a rush!

Rice

I love using all types of rice in my recipes. For this particular recipe, I like a long-grained brown rice. But short-grained brown rice works, too. The dish would also work with farro, barley, bulgur, or even millet.

Greens

I lean on kale—probably too heavily—as my go-to green of choice. But you can make the greens collards, chard, broccoli rabe, mustard greens, spinach, or beet greens. Broccoli florets, zucchini, cauliflower, and other vegetables make a nice add-in.

Dressing

The dressing that gets more love than any other in Power Plates is my Everyday Lemon Tahini Dressing. The title is a slight exaggeration, but not a big one.

I make a batch of this dressing nearly every week. Once it’s made, I use it almost daily. Here, it adds just the right creaminess and acidity to balance the savoriness of onions and spices. And as an added bonus, it can be whisked together in minutes.

Serving cumin-spiced lentils & rice

As far as serving goes, you can enjoy the cumin-spiced lentils & rice in many ways. I sometimes add a few wedges of whole wheat pita to the plate so that I can scoop up every last bite of the mixture (and whatever dressing is on the plate!).

You can serve the lentils and rice as a side dish, along with a big salad and some grilled or baked tofu or tempeh. Or you could make it a main dish along with some veggies: roasted beets, broccoli, and cauliflower all work really nicely with it.

The recipe is also lovely with a cup of soup at this time of year; I especially like to have it with this carrot soup (chickpeas optional, since there’s plenty of legume action going on here already).

A close-up image of cumin-spiced lentils and rice, which have been mixed with steamed kale and topped with a tahini sauce.

An opportunity to batch cook

As you’ll see, the lentils and rice here are pre-cooked. This means that the cumin-spiced lentils & rice is a good opportunity to practice batch cooking and make ahead skills! Cook the rice and boil the lentils when your schedule allows for it. When it comes time to make this meal, you’ll have a fast and flavorful dinner on the table in less than twenty minutes.

A round, white plate is covered with cumin-spiced lentils & rice, a serving fork, and a drizzle of pale-colored tahini sauce.
4.96 from 23 votes

Cumin Spiced Lentils and Rice with Every Day Lemon Tahini Dressing

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small white or yellow onions, sliced thinly
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 small bunch kale, collards, or another leafy green, stems removed and chopped into bite-sized pieces (about 4 packed cups of greens)
  • 3 cups cooked, long-grain brown rice (1 cup dry)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked brown lentils (1 can lentils, drained and rinsed, or 2/3 cups dry lentils, cooked)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, more to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Everyday Lemon Tahini Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced or grated on a microplane
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon agave nectar or maple syrup, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup water, plus more as needed

Instructions

  • To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup and whisk until evenly blended. If the dressing is thicker than you’d like, whisk in water by the tablespoonful to achieve the desired consistency. (Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, the dressing will keep for 1 week.)
  • Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or pot over medium heat. Add the onions. Cook the onions, stirring them often, for about 10-12 minutes, or until they’re a nice, golden brown. Add the cumin and coriander and stir; then, add the kale. Cook the kale until it’s tender, stirring often (about 5 minutes).
  • Add the rice and lentils to the skillet, along with the lemon juice. Heat everything through. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to your liking. Divide onto plates and top with Everyday Lemon Tahini Dressing.

Notes

If you prefer, you can replace the oil with a few tablespoons of vegetable broth.
A pale, ceramic plate has been topped with a vegan dish of rice, lentils, kale, and a creamy sauce.

The cumin-spiced lentils & rice were a dependable favorite when I was in graduate school. I’d make the tahini dressing, rice, and lentils over the weekend, and when I got home from class, it was easy to have a nutrient-dense supper ready quickly.

An added bonus? The leftovers are great either hot or cold.

I hope you’ll find it easy and appealing, too—and I’m wishing you all a great week ahead.

xo

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    25 Comments
  1. 5 stars
    This recipe is perfection. So so simple, especially with precooked rice and lentils which I bought. It is cheap, uses few ingredients, but is exploding with flavor. This is definitely a staple for me from now on! Seems like a great base recipe as well to get creative with.

  2. I find I usually overcook my lentils. Or I guess there’s a very fine line in between cooked and over cooked! Ha! Great recipe though, will be trying later this week!

    Cheers!

    Julian

  3. 5 stars
    Made this for dinner last night and it was SO good! Swapped out half the rice for roasted sweet potatoes and added extra kale. I can see the base of this recipe + the dressing work so well with many different roasted veggie combinations. Happy to add this to the rotation of frequently made recipes in our home 🙂
    Thanks for another amazing recipe!

  4. 5 stars
    Great healthy and easy recipe! I like to place cumin seeds in the oil first to sautés and bring out even more flavor, then proceed with the recipe. And I love adding spinach instead! Yum, thanks!

  5. I love lentils, can’t wait to try this! I think I will try this the oil-free way, as I tend to cook oil-free for myself most of the time.

  6. This was wonderful. The dressing really complements it & adds so many more flavors.

  7. 5 stars
    I made this last night and it was simple, filling and flavorful. I only had half of an onion so I used that and the white part of about 5 scallions and it worked out really well. I highly recommend serving this with Gena’s Yum Sauce but I’m sure it’s great with the Everyday Lemon Tahini dressing too.

  8. 5 stars
    I can’t wait to make this! It looks so nourishing and delicious. Thank you for sharing your SNAP challenge experience too. Right out of college, I worked as a nutritionist at a local Food Bank, so the SNAP program is close to my heart.

  9. 5 stars
    I’m absolutely in love with this recipe! Made it yesterday and just couldn’t stop nibbling at the leftovers. I decided to reduce the amount of rice and lentils (since it was just two of us eating it) and slightly up the amount of sauce (since I always like a lot of sauce) and it came out great! The combo of that sauce with the cumin is just awesome!

  10. 5 stars
    I love easy dinner recipes, especially when they turn out to be something my whole family loves!. This one also looks tasty.This is literally one of the most delicious things I have made! thank you for sharing a great recipe!!
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  11. 5 stars
    I just loved it, I’m not only going to give it 5 stars. But, I’m going to share it with all my website’s followers on the social media. Thank you for giving me something useful to share it today!

  12. 5 stars
    Totally delicious! Used up late week cooked batch cooking grains, beans and roasted veggies plus the fresh onion, spices and kale and of course the sauce. Absolutely delicious and so ridiculously easy. Thank you!!

  13. 5 stars
    Made this tonight and it was a hit! Easy, too. Put it on my Pinterest favorites board.

  14. 5 stars
    I love lentils! Rice is great also! A variety of spices adds to the entire dish. Love this post!